Exams in nursing school differ from traditional paper & pencil types. They’re computerized, timed & can only be progressed forward. They are also formatted for higher level of thinking, requiring the use of analytical and application critical thinking skills. It’s quite an adjustment for those of us who like to double check over their exams, especially when one question triggers an answer to a previous question. The most challenging questions, from experience, are those where all the answers are right but you have to choose the “most right” answer & communication-type questions. It’s important to know how to think & prepare for these exams. Here are some basic tips straight from Strategies for Test Success: Passing Nursing School and the NCLEX Exam.
I. Cover the answer choices & read the question. Read EVERY word
II. Look for key words.
- For words such as initial, best, priority or most important:
i. ABCs (Airway, Breathing, Circulation) are a priority ALWAYS (when applicable)
ii. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: 1st physiologic, 2nd safety, 3rd emotional support; pain.
iii. Consider preventive measures (example: manage pain early before it gets worse)
iv. Do least invasive first
v. Remember the Nursing Process ADPIE – Assessment → Diagnosis → Planning → Implementation → Evaluation. ASSESS first. If you have enough information, DO something.
- Look for superlative/inclusive words such as all, every, never, none, each.
- If the question is about the patient, the answer should be PATIENT CENTERED
- Therapeutic communication: no opinions, closed-ended questions, you want to explore feelings & address emotions
III. How you you restate the questions?
IV. Look for negative words: except, need additional info, lacks understanding, etc.
V. What do you think the answer may be? You are not focusing on the question?
VI. When you uncover your answers, read the choices for content only. Refrain from saying “yes” or “no” until you have read the four choices.
VII. Do NOT look for the right answer. Eliminate the ones you know are incorrect. When you have two choices left, return to the question. Remember the key words.
THINK: How will the nurse use this information in the clinical setting?
Teach yourself the information. Review, did you include all the key points?
When doing the NCLEX practice questions, use these:
1. What are the key words?
2. What is the question asking?
3. What do you think the answer is?
4. Is this a priority question? Does Maslow apply (physiological, safety, psychosocial)?
5. Look for comparable answer; they both can’t be correct.
6. Eliminate the answers you know are wrong. Look at key words.
Don’t forget to practice, practice, practice!